DP12806 From Finance to Extremism: The Real Effects of Germany's 1931 Banking Crisis

Author(s): Sebastian Doerr, Stefan Gissler, José Luis Peydró, Hans-Joachim Voth
Publication Date: March 2018
Keyword(s): extremism, Financial crises, Germany, Great Depression, Nazi Party, Polarisation, Real effects
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Financial Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12806

Do financial crises radicalize voters? For identification, we analyze the canonical case of Germany in the 1930s exploiting a large bank failure in 1931 caused by fraud, foreign shocks and political inaction. We use detailed bank-firm connections on banks that (unlike the US) served the whole country. We provide causal evidence from banking crisis to economic distress and extreme radical voting, while the literature in general has found no clear effect of economic distress on Nazi Party support. We show that, first, the failure of Jewish-led Danatbank induced a strong reduction in the wage bill for connected firms. This led to increasing city-level unemployment in cities with more Danat-connected firms. The effects are notably stronger in cities with a higher share of non-exporting firms, where local demand spillovers are higher. Second, Danat exposure significantly increased Nazi Party support between 1930 and 1933 elections, but not between 1928 and 1930 -before the banking crisis but after the start of the Great Depression and high unemployment. The financial crisis increased support for the Nazi party the most in areas with both deep-seated historical anti-Semitism, and more net savers than borrowers. Not only did the banking crisis help the Nazis rise to power, but cities with higher Danat exposure saw fewer marriages between Jews and gentiles after the banking crisis. Also, after 1933, there were more attacks on Jews and their property in Danat-exposed cites, and deportation rates were higher.